The Projection

The Projection

Tiresias models what he’s told.
What nostrum dramas then ensue
he neither sees nor seizes hold.
Someone else has the costs in view,

and has foresuffered all to come
(not personally though of course)
content to weigh the zero-sum
and favour action, if by force.

(For every one, an equal and
opposite reaction to contend.)
What side up buttered cat may land
will never know, for there’s no

Note: A modern metaphysical poem about the problem of statistical modelling when used to determine likely outcomes. There seems to be an inherent bias in favour of ‘doing something’: a naïve belief which fails to acknowledge that taking no action is itself an action. A related bias is confirmation bias, where doing X to avoid Y is shown to be justified when Y never happens, even if Y may never have happened even without X. This is then related to the idea that taking (wrong) action for a projected scenario which never materialises will backfire and provoke a strong reaction from those who have suffered for no reason (‘force’ summons Newton’s three laws of motion, the third of which is evoked here). ‘Nostrum dramas’ is a rather bad pun on Nostradamus; Tiresias was the blind seer who could see the future but was physically blind to the world around him, unable to see the real people to whom he imparted his predictions. The buttered cat paradox is a tongue-in-cheek combination of two common projections: that toast will always land buttered side down, and a cat will always land on its four paws. If buttered toast was attached to a cat’s back, what side down would the animal land? There can be no end-point, so the cat is destined forever to hover just off the ground, unable to escape this cycle.

This poem © Oliver Tearle 2021